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Revealed: Why the best candidates for top electoral commission positions missed out

By Nzau Musau | Published Sat, December 31st 2016 at 00:00, Updated December 31st 2016 at 10:27 GMT +3
New IEBC selection panel chairperson Bernadette Wanyonyi and Vice-chairperson SUPKEM Prof. Abdughafur El Busaidy at County Hall Nairobi. (Photo: Jenipher Wachie)

Fresh details emerging on Thursday’s electoral commission nominations paint a picture of vicious horse-trading amongst Jubilee and CORD agents during which best candidates were dropped, experts sidelined and professionals shunned.

Well-placed sources involved in the recruitment told The Standard on Saturday that the nominee for the chair position — Wafula Wanyonyi Chebukati, was the panel’s bait to the President to ensure top-scorer Tukero ole Kina won the race.

Rather than catch the bait, the President beat the panelists in their own game by nominating Chebukati even though he shares a region and ethnicity with Ezra Chiloba, the CEO of the electoral commission.

Chebukati was second last in score from the list of nine candidates the panel considered for chair’s position. With a score of 63.17, he only managed to beat David Kiprop Malakwen by 0.6 points.

CORD and Jubilee agents in the Bernadette Musundi-led panel which conducted the interviews had settled on Kina (76.33) after losing out on their foremost candidates.

Jubilee was reportedly rooting for former TJRC commissioner Margaret Shava, former Mombasa Mayor Taib Ali Taib and former Judicial Service Commission (JSC) commissioner Florence Mwangangi in that order.

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CORD on the other hand had stuck on the devolution expert and former advisor in the former office of the Prime Minister Mutakha Kangu and Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board member Roseline Odede. All Jubilee and CORD favorites were knocked out for one reason or the other.

“Nobody had issues with ole Kina. He was essentially the compromise candidate and to further firm up the choice, he was nominated alongside a fall candidate (Chebukati).

“Further to that, the panel wrote a secret note asking the President to settle on ole Kina. It is not clear whether the note got to him,” a credible source privy to the process told The Standard on Saturday.

Shava scored a mean of 66.33 per cent. She got her highest scores from Jubilee’s nominees in the panel — Mary Kigen-Sorobit (73) and Evans Monari (72). In contrast, their CORD counterparts Olga Karani and Tom Mbaluto gave her 42 and 67, respectively.

The former TJRC official was further weighed down by panel chair Musundi (61) while the religious leaders representatives — Prof Abdulgalfur El-Busaidy, Peter Karanja, David Oginde and Mohan Lumba gave her fairly impressive scores of 69, 67, 71 and 75, respectively.

What did her in, sources say, was a record of eight petitions against her, lobbying against her by former colleagues at TJRC and rumours of her alleged relations with the First Family and a member of the recruitment panel who gave her quite high scores.

Her equal on the other side — Kangu — attracted three petitions, some which the panel dismissed with contempt for bordering on outright slander and malice. Besides perception issues of being close to former Prime Minister and CORD leader Raila Odinga, Kangu was felled by impropriety allegations on a law firm he co-owned.

“The improprieties alleged of him were allegedly perpetrated by a law partner at a time he was in exile but when he came back, he cleared out with parties in question.

“The Law Society of Kenya confirmed as much through a letter to the panel but it didn’t help much in terms of integrity,” another source said.

It was now the turn of Jubilee agents and their associates in the panel to slow down Kangu. He got the least marks from Monari (57), Karanja (64) and Sorobit (66). As was be expected, CORD agents gave him excellent scores with Mbaluto giving him 82 per cent and Karani 77 per cent.

Kangu also got a huge boost from Busaidy (82), Musundi (75), Oginde 72 and Lumba 71. His mean was 71.78. Kangu, Shava, Odede and two others — David Malakwen and David Mureka had been short-listed in the original list of five nominees for chair’s post.

Before they could be interviewed, however, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) wrote a letter claiming to be investigating each and every one of them. Panelists we spoke to said EACC adamantly refused to divulge specifics against them.

The panel then faced the dilemma of disqualifying candidates they had already short-listed and some who have heavy political support. They controversially opted to advertise afresh and retain the shortlists for image purposes. None of the original five made it to the final list presented to the President last week.

“Support for Shava was so strong that on the day of picking the shortlist, the panel took six hours deliberating on her matter. The panel which had sat shortly after lunch concluded the shortlist at 5am the following day in a high-stakes game in which phones were kept off,” sources said.

With Shava and Kangu gone, CORD and Jubilee settled on their alternate candidates with CORD having only one last bullet (Odede) but Jubilee with the upper hand of two (Taib and Mwangangi) and a reserve of Leperes Naikuni.

Of the three, Odede scored the highest at 77, in fact the highest for all applicants for the chair’s post.

Odede turned out to have support across the board but still got the least marks from Monari (71), Karanja (72) and Sorbobit 75. Karani gave her 82, Mbaluto 79, Busaidy 81, Lumba 83, Oginde 79 and Musundi 74.5.

Taib got some of his highest scores of 83 and 80 from Monari and Sorbobit, respectively. Busaidy gave him 87 per cent while Karani gave him her an all-time low of 40 per cent. Lumba gave him 80, Oginde 75, Karanja 64 and Musundi 65. His total mean score was 71.83. Taib also fell on alleged conflict of interest involving his former clients and petitions questioning his integrity.

Mwangangi on the other hand braved several JSC-related petitions to score a mean of 69.72 per cent. Besides Jubilee, Mwangangi was said to enjoy the patronage of a senior Ukambani political figurehead who preferred her to the other finalist in member’s position, Samuel Kimeu.

She got the highest marks from Mbaluto (85), followed by Busaidy (76), Monari (74), Oginde (73), Musundi 71.5, Sorbobit 61 and Karani 63. The other two candidates for the chair’s post, Leperes Naikuni and David Malakwen, scored 72.22 and 63.11. Naikuni lost out on perception that he was a Jubilee man while Malakwen was weighed down by petitions arising from his former work place.

When it came to membership, serious horse-trading between the two groups took place with unlikely candidates getting placement in the final list and others getting jostled out. Shava topped Central with similar scores for chairmanship (66.33) against her closest and only challenger Ann Wanja Kariuki (64.22).

Although Kariuki impressed the panel being an expert on electoral matters, having participated in civic education, conducted electoral activities for Democratic Party in the US for several years and having served in the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA), she fell over Shava.

It is said that Shava’s diehard supporters in the panel gave her low marks while those who didn’t want Shava graded her highly. For instance, Monari gave her 42 per cent but Karani gave her 90 per cent.

The tug of war over the two was settled with the panel leaving out Central altogether and getting someone from Upper Eastern — Consolata Nkatha Bucha Maina to step in for Central. Known as Connie Maina in her former workplaces, Nkatha scored 55.33.

Upper Eastern got yet another nominee who also was chosen on the basis of youth — 38-year old Boya Molu who by-passed the top candidate Letipalei Lodompui (66.33). Lodompui was floored by perception issues of alleged coziness with Jubilee.

North Eastern’s top candidate Prof Abdi Yakub Guliye (75.11) sailed through despite intense lobbying for his challenger Ismail Buro Hassan (52.67) by a top and controversial Jubilee politicians from the region.

In Lower Eastern, the panel’s pick was 48-year old Kimeu (68.22) against youthful Faith Kasiva (65.56). Kasiva received the lowest marks from Monari (51), Karani (55) and Musundi (58). She scored upwards of 70’s from most of the other panelists.

Kimeu was helped the most by Karani’s 91, Mbaluto’s 83, Musundi’s 78 and Lumba’s 71 but was weighed down by Karanja’s 58, Busaidy’s 49 and Monari’s 52. The other Lower Eastern finalist Hilary Kioko scored 61.61 per cent.

In Western, Kangu topped with his chair marks but since he had been knocked off, panelists settled on Prof Henry Kizito who has a PhD in IT. In Luo Nyanza, the panel picked Zephaniah Aura who scored the all-time highest mean score of all candidates at 80 per cent.

The 50-year old Aura, a Suba, impressed the entire panel a great deal with his wide and varied expertise in electoral matters. He has worked with the UN, USAID and advised electoral management bodies in Liberia, Tanzania, India, Gambia, Nigeria and Ghana. He also conducted the South Sudan referendum.

“He is the only candidate who had interacted the most with electoral electronic systems in various places. He’s the only one who avowed the simplicity of employing technology in election and who promised to reduce technology spending by two thirds,” a source told The Standard on Saturday.

High marks

For all his worth and high marks, Aura was left out by President Uhuru Kenyatta. In South Rift, both candidates, Dr Janet Kirui and Chris Twala, performed dismally but the panel settled on the former, who scored the highest.

In North Rift, the panel by-passed Prof Wafula Okumu on account of sharing ethnicity with Chiloba. He had scored the highest at 78.56. They also knocked out second-placed Vincent Kimosop (68.33) over an adverse petition over his masters thesis. They settled on Ambassador Kibiwott Kurgat.

The only Nairobi candidate, Oliver Kisaka, was dropped on similar grounds as Okumu. Coast candidates performed dismally but the first, Margaret Wanjala was picked. Kisii-Nyanza’s top candidate Roselyne Kwamboka almost went down over alleged links to a CORD MP.

Her supporters in the panel, however, threatened to blow out the matter on gender discrimination grounds and she was picked. From the panel’s list of 12, 10 for commissioners and 2 for chairs, Uhuru picked Chebukati for chair and Maina, Molu, Kwamboka, Kurgat, Wanjala and Guliye as members.

He knocked out the rest. Yesterday, Mohamed Abdikadir, Uhuru’s advisor on Constitutional Affairs said the commission set the pace for the President and that all of them stood 50-50 chance of being picked. He added that the women had an edge over the men.

“From the list presented to the President, all the women had to go through on account of the gender rule. The rest stood an equal chance and unfortunately when you pick someone you leave out another. We are now looking at what Parliament will do and whichever decision they make, we will respect it,” he said.